Rt. 29 Tour Through Virginia or Old 97 Rides Again

Another Road Trip

In 2010 I went on 2 roads trips where I combined my passions for flea markets, railroading and nature. One took me south down Rt. 13 on the eastern shore of Virginia, and the other went west along US Rt. 40 through Maryland then north toward Altoona Pennsylvania. Both trips were very successful in meeting their railroad and shopping objectives and in drawing my attention to sights and flavors that are not found in the suburbs of Washington DC. They also provided material for hubpages.

The first road trip of 2011 was along US Rt. 29 through central Virginia to North Carolina. The inspiration for the trip was railroad ballad The Wreck of the Old 97. Old 97 was a Southern Railroad mail train that went from New York to New Orleans, the ballad is concerned with the stretch from Monroe Virginia to Danville Virginia but mentions Spencer North Carolina. A little research showed that US Rt. 29 and the rail line run basically parallel and Spencer is home to the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Rt. 29 should provide happy saleing since it is country road (not an Interstate) which goes through many small to medium sized towns. A road trip was mandatory!!! It started in Gainesville Virginia and finished in Spencer North Carolina and was a total success.


Lots of Yard Sales and Flea Markets

In suburbia the yard sales are impromptu affairs where for the most part the parents are trying to sell the kids old toys and too small clothes. Venture out into the country side and the yard sales become semi professional where the operators are try to subsidize their living. The yard sale can be a borderline antique store, and certainly there is much opportunity to find collectibles. The true professionals can be found at the organized flea markets where the table renters cater to the Saturday treasure hunter and they will have interesting inventory. Of course there are many antique stores to be found, they will have excellent inventory but the prices will be “retail” and noticeably higher than will be found at the yard sale and flea markets.

Start your trip early and try to be at the hunting grounds by 8:00 am. Keep an eye on the clock and keep your ultimate destination in mind. Many sales will be found and the day will be gone with many hours of driving ahead if you get overly absorbed in the hunt. Watch for signs which will lead you off your main route, but be careful and don’t follow them too far (maybe a couple of miles) lest you find yourself many miles from the main route. (Hint: use a GPS, it is a great help in getting unlost). Larger sales, flea markets and antique stores will be on the main route. Certainly stop at these. The pictures below are a sample of the sales found on the Rt. 29 trip.


Interesting, yard sale in an antique shop parking lot. Get 2 for 1 stop.
Interesting, yard sale in an antique shop parking lot. Get 2 for 1 stop.
A large sale off the beaten track.
A large sale off the beaten track.
A church group sale. Very unusual in that everything was free. There was no gimmick, I asked the Pastor where the donation bucket was, there was none. I found a couple of interesting books.
A church group sale. Very unusual in that everything was free. There was no gimmick, I asked the Pastor where the donation bucket was, there was none. I found a couple of interesting books.
Another off the main route sale, this one by the local Moose lodge.
Another off the main route sale, this one by the local Moose lodge.
Another church sale on Rt. 29. No freebies here.
Another church sale on Rt. 29. No freebies here.
This under roof flea market is in Spencer NC not far from the museum.
This under roof flea market is in Spencer NC not far from the museum.

There is much to see and enjoy along Rt. 29.

Virginia is a very historic state and there is much to see along Rt. 29. Near Charlottesville is Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson our third president. The house and grounds are quite beautiful and have many unique features designed by Jefferson himself. The University of Virginia which was founded by Jefferson is in Charlottesville. Nearby is Ashlawn, home of James Monroe the fifth president of the United States and a student Of Thomas Jefferson. Ritchie tavern is a pleasant place to eat and get a feel for early American history and is near Monticello.

Salisbury NC shares a common border with Spencer NC and is an interesting place in its own right. I only scratched the surface of the towns interesting sites but did find a 6000 Square foot mural depicting life in Salisbury at the turn of the century (1899/1900) and an elaborate Confederate war memorial. The inscription read in part "In memory of Rowan's Confederate soldiers That their heroic deeds sublime sacrifice and undying devotion to duty and country may never be forgotten
1861-1865" The use of the word country and its context I found fascinating. The statue was erected in 1909, and it seems that NC was still a reluctant part of the USA.

The drive through Virginia is in the heart of wine country. There are many wineries and they have tasting rooms; of course you will likely need a couple of days to make it to NC.


Charlottesville Va is Jefferson Country

Turn of the Century (1900) Salisbury NC

Civil War Memorial Salisbury NC

Sorry about picture quality, not my photo.
Sorry about picture quality, not my photo.

The Winery is OPEN!!!

Sign Above Door Says Tasting Room.

The Wreck of Old 97 –A brief description

Train 97 was the Fast Mail train that ran from New York to New Orleans. It was operated by the Southern railroad which had a lucrative contract with the U.S. Post Office. The contract had penalties for each minute the train was late. Obviously the railroad wanted the train to be on time.

On September 27, 1903 Engineer Joseph (Steve) Broady boarded train 97 in Washington along with 2 firemen, the extra being assigned to ensure steam pressure was maintained. The train was late when it departed Washington and was an hour late by the time it reached Monroe Va. At Monroe Broady was told to make up the hour. He tried, maybe a little too hard. When 97 was near/in Danville VA and crossing the curving 75 ft high Stillhouse Trestle The train derailed and fell off the trestle killing Steve the firemen and 6 other people. The Southern Railroad blamed Broady; no big company would ever encourage unsafe operation just for the sake of money.


The Wreck of Old 97-The Ballad

My interest in Old 97 was sparked by the Ballad sung by Jonny Cash. The song traces Steve and grease’s fateful last ride and does an excellent job of following the route, the song inspired the Rt. 29 road trip. The pictures below depict points along the route and where appropriate uses words from the song as captions.


Monroe is in Amherst Co.

There is a sign, but that is about all I could find relative to railroading.
There is a sign, but that is about all I could find relative to railroading.

The Museum/Visitor center is Very Nice

Staff at the Museum Was Very Helpful.

Steve Got His Orders Here

Well they gave him his orders at Monroe Virginia  sayin' Steve you're way behind time This is not 38 this is old 97 you must put her into Spencer on time
Well they gave him his orders at Monroe Virginia sayin' Steve you're way behind time This is not 38 this is old 97 you must put her into Spencer on time

Tower Ruins? Is this where Steve got his orders?

About all I could find near the tracks at Monroe.
About all I could find near the tracks at Monroe.

Museum Staff Called Monroe a Ghost Town. Maybe so.

You Can Get to White Oak Mountain, but No Sign of the Railroad.

Then he turned around and said to his black greasy fireman shovel on a little more coal And when we cross that White Oak Mountain watch old 97 roll.    Jonny seems to be saying Wide Oak mountain.
Then he turned around and said to his black greasy fireman shovel on a little more coal And when we cross that White Oak Mountain watch old 97 roll. Jonny seems to be saying Wide Oak mountain.

Marker is located on U.S. 58 between Locust Lane and North Main Street.

But it's a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville With a line on a three mile grade It was on that grade that he lost his air brakes see what a jump he made He was goin' down the grade makin' 90 miles an hour his whistle broke into a scream He
But it's a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville With a line on a three mile grade It was on that grade that he lost his air brakes see what a jump he made He was goin' down the grade makin' 90 miles an hour his whistle broke into a scream He

There is a Ravine by the Danville Marker

There is a ravine by the marker but is this the actual location? One source says the trestle was over Stillhouse Creek, there is no creek. Another source says the trestle was over Cherrystone Creek which is well outside of Danville.
There is a ravine by the marker but is this the actual location? One source says the trestle was over Stillhouse Creek, there is no creek. Another source says the trestle was over Cherrystone Creek which is well outside of Danville.

Mural in Danville

Sources mention white canaries escaping from the wreck. The ballad does not mention them
Sources mention white canaries escaping from the wreck. The ballad does not mention them

North Carolina Transportation Museum – Southern Railroad Spencer Shops

Spencer Shops were a major steam locomotive repair facility located on the Southern Mainline between Atlanta Ga. and Washington DC. The facility was opened in 1896 with Samuel Spencer, head of the Southern Railroad presiding. It was phased out from 1950s to the 1970s as diesel locomotives replaced the maintenance intensive steam locomotives. The facility is on the National Register of Historic Places and is now the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Pictures best describe the facility and they follow.


Steve's (Train 97) Destination

The South Must Like Murals, This one in Spencer.

Spencer Shops, Now The NC Transportation Museum

Tour of Museum Starts at the Depot

The Video is Excellent.

For $10.00 You get a Train Ride to the Roundhouse and Back.

There is no admission charge so the $10.00 does support the museum and the tour and ride is well worth $10.00.
There is no admission charge so the $10.00 does support the museum and the tour and ride is well worth $10.00.

Back Shop Where Heavy Locomotive Rebuilding was Done.

Inside the Back Shop, Will be the Main Museum Display Area

The Roundhouse

Ride the Turntable, (for free)

Display in the Roundhouse

Another Roundhouse Exhibit

Another Roundhouse Exhibit

A Diesel Engine

A 16 cylinder EMD 567 diesel engine. Used in F series locomotives, GPs and more. Even submarines and ships during WWII.
A 16 cylinder EMD 567 diesel engine. Used in F series locomotives, GPs and more. Even submarines and ships during WWII.

Mid 1930s NC State Police Car

More Autos on Display

Rolling Stock Stored Outside

Last Car on the Train, More Plush Interior than the Others.

Rolling Stock Stored Outside

Rolling Stock Stored Outside

Rolling Stock Stored Outside

Rolling Stock Stored Outside

Ash Pit and Rolling Stock

Water Spout and Sand Tower

Room and Board

There are many motels and eating establishments of the national chain variety near Salisbury off Interstate 85. If you want something with a more local flavor do research, maybe the visitor center or careful review of the Internet.

North Carolinais noted for Barbeque so I found a place on the Internet that had the best barbeque in Spencer with a review that mentioned great country fried steak, one of my favorites. That was the place for me. Unfortunately the country fried was an intermittent special, not available the night I was there, and even though I love barbeque it does not like me so I chose something called cowboy steak. Well John Wayne would have shot the cook if he served this stuff on the range, certainly the description mystery meat applies and maybe even poor quality vegetarian meat substitute.

In the morning I wanted a pastry. The local Bakery in Salisbury only had cookies and cupcakes, and the Hispanic Bakery in Spencer had no idea what I was talking about. I wound up with tiny overpriced do-nuts and coffee at a chain do-nut place. For do-nuts go to Shoppers Food Warehouse, the best in the country.

Research or stick with Applebees.


Pictures taken with a Nikon D80 DSLR Camera

The Nikon L Series Very Low Cost Camera Takes Excellent Pictures.

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Comments 1 comment

Brenda Shifflett 4 years ago

This was great!! Alittle history and a Sunday drive.

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